Monday, May 9, 2016

Jokes and Fun and Safety at Work

Something happened at a conference I recently attended:

Between sessions, there was a long line at the men’s room. There was little or no line at the women’s room. Behind me in line, out of my vision, I heard a man say:

“Maybe we're all starting to feel transgender right now.”

If you didn't cringe when you read that, I get it. In a way, it is a clever nod to all the happenings related to the recent North Carolina bathroom law.

But I cringed when I heard it, and I cringe each time I read it again. Unfortunately, that comment is hurtful. Would a transgender man feel welcome hearing that? I can't imagine one would.

I'm sure that the comment was not intended to be hurtful. But if a transgender man heard it, and I can't be certain that one did not, I expect it would have a hurtful impact. And if we want a better workplace and a better world, I believe we have to take responsibility for the impact of our actions, not just our intentions.

I believe everyone wants a fun work environment, and jokes can certainly be part of that. But I'm hoping that we can create cultures that push women and members of marginalized groups out of IT less. When someone is outnumbered in a setting, it can be hard to speak up about what feels OK and what doesn’t, especially if the rest of the group seems to (even if silently) condone something. I understand - rocking the boat about culture can be a risk to employment. As white, heterosexual men, we are probably not experienced with what can feel hurtful to people different from us. I try to honor and believe people’s life experiences. Even if I can’t see how something can be hurtful, I try to believe people when they say something is.

All of this means that I try to avoid humor that is sexually charged, comments on people’s bodies, or touches on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender presentation, and other characteristics of members of marginalized groups.

And if a joke like that slips out and I notice, I don't wait for someone else to point it out. I call myself out on it and acknowledge the possible impact, even though it wasn't my intention.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Slides from my Diversity in IT talk at Agile and Beyond 2016 are Now Available

At Agile and Beyond 2016, I presented: "Why Should I Go See Another White Man Talk About Diversity in IT?" I spoke mainly about how women and members of marginalized groups are often made to feel unsafe or unwelcome at IT companies, usually without men realizing the impact of what we are doing.

I've put my slides up (link below). If you are interested in the topic, please take a look. I have included many links to information and resources.

slides - scroll down below my profile to find the .pptx

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A New Adventure - Same Employer, Same Client!

For the last ten months, I have been a software developer on a high-functioning, reference team at a major enterprise client. The team is a great group of people, with solid processes, and has been delivering defect-free code and providing mission-critical business value since before I joined them. But my time as a member of that team has drawn to a close.

Starting Monday, I will be moving within that same client to join the coaches in their Agile Center of Excellence. This new role will allow me to use more of my personal, social, coaching, and training skills, and will no longer involve creating production code on a cadence.

I am really excited for my employer, my client, and myself. The change comes at a time when the development team is beginning a pre-planned size-down, so my employer has somewhere to place me immediately. My client can continue to benefit from my accumulated domain experience. Both will be getting their best value by paying for work that I excel at, and I'll be doing work that I have a deep passion for.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

On Privilege

What do I mean by “Privilege”? Privilege is a set of advantages that I receive, without earning them, merely because of my birth circumstance(s). Privilege is different than prejudice or “ism”s. As a person of privilege, I get the advantages even if don’t have prejudice and don’t engage in overt oppressive activities like sexism or racism.

Some examples of my privilege as a white man include:
• I can go to any workplace and expect to see people who look like me
• If I make a mistake, no one will say that it’s because white people are stupid
• The lead roles in movies and tv shows are usually of my color and gender
• If I have children and a career, I won’t be called selfish for not being home with the children
• I am more likely to get a job than an equally qualified applicant who is a woman and/or person of color

There are many types of privilege, including (specific examples and details can be found by following the links):
White Privilege
Male Privilege
Heterosexual Privilege
Able-bodied Privilege
Class Privilege
Religious Privilege
Cisgender Privilege (contrast with transgender)

You may say: “But I have struggled! I don’t have privilege!” Privilege isn’t about whether I am powerful, wealthy, have a good job, have worked hard all my life to get where I am, or struggle every day. Privilege is simply unearned advantages I get because I belong to a group.

Sometimes when people learn about the concept of privilege, people feel guilt?  If this happens to you, ask yourself where the feeling is coming from. Is it because:
• I never noticed it before?
• I act in ways that make this worse?
• I don’t do things that make it better for people without privilege?

Now that you know about privilege, what can you do about it? You can:
• Read about privilege
• Stay on the lookout for other privileges you might discover you have
• Belive the life experiences of people with less privilege
• Ask yourself if your actions or policies reinforce the advantages of certain privileged groups
• Don’t “help” less-privileged groups - it robs them of agency. Instead amplify their voices (retweet, etc)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Pair Programming "Out Loud"

One element of Pair Programming that I find key to success is "Programming Out Loud". When I have the keyboard and mouse (driving), I want to be explaining my train of thought to my pair partner, moment-by-moment. Conversely, if I am the non-keyboard partner (navigating), I want my partner to be explaining their thoughts moment-to-moment. If my partner is practicing "silent pair programming", I try to ask ask questions like: "What's next?" or "Where are we headed?" to try to get them talking about what they are thinking or doing. Or if that doesn't help, I can ask to drive for a while and try and draw out their ideas that way. Usually things don't go this far, unless my partner is new to pairing. When I start to go off silent and solo, my partner usually invites me back into collaborative mode.

But what if my partner is the navigator and they are disengaged? I can ask (slightly tongue-in-cheek): "Are you with me?" It can require courage to "call out" my partner in that way, but sometimes it takes courage to be on a successful agile team. And if I'm the disengaged navigator and I catch myself being distracted, I can ask to write the next test to try and focus myself back on what we are doing.

Do you have ways that you draw a distracted partner back into collaboration? Or do you have ways to get yourself back into collaboration?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hiring and Diversity

I’m so glad to see another man thinking about hiring women and members of marginalized groups. I started a comment that post, but it became rather long, so I am posting it here instead. Read Jay's original post at the link above for perspective, although I hope that what I have written below stands fairly well on its own.

I really like your post: "Hiring Awesome Developers (who happen to be women)". I've been thinking about how to write a "disclaimer" paragraph like your “Before you start” paragraph. You've covered many of my thoughts. I also try and acknowledge to people that I will make mistakes, and that I will accept the impact of my words regardless of their intention. Further, I won’t expect people to teach me about those mistakes (although I am totally open to it), and I will research on my own until I think I understand them.

Another thing I find important is to amplify the voices of people in marginalized groups. I try to provide references to people who belong to the groups that I am speaking about. They are the ones whose lives are affected daily by these issues and they speak from the most authority.

Your paragraph “A Possible Plan” addresses the so-called “pipeline” problem that results in too few minority and women candidates. But another reason that the makeup of companies is still disproportionately is that women are leaving STEM in large numbers. We need to make sure that our company cultures and environments are really fair to women and minorities and free from discrimination and bias before we bring in women and minorities, or we risk losing them and alienating them more.

We can also examine our websites and job descriptions for wording and imagery that may discourage women and members of marginalized groups from applying. A simple example is a posting that looks for “ninja” developers who can “smash” technical problems — this aggressive language exclude women from considering themselves as a candidate.

Finally, women tend not to apply for tech jobs unless they meet 100% of the criteria in the posting while men apply if they match 60%. I’m not sure what to do about that - maybe mention in the posting that not all criteria are required and avoid long lists of “nice-to-haves”.

I wrote another post that has a more concise bullet-list of things I'm learning about diversity and the workplace.

My Crash Course Crayon Video: 4 Levels of Listening

My employer, Pillar, produces a series of two-minute videos related to software development and the people skills needed to do it well.

A video I made was just released. The title is: "4 Levels of Listening" and you can watch it here. I'd love to hear your reactions.